Study Questions with student notes

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Return to Ethics

All exams are based on these study questions. You are strongly encouraged to keep notes on these study questions as the semester proceeds. This will make you preparation for the mid-term and final much more efficient and productive.

January 07

1st class meeting. No study questions.

January 08

1. How does Cooper define ethics?

2. What was the Zimbardo prison experiment and what lessons can be drawn from it?

3. Identify five core theories or belief systems that moral theories typically reference.

January 10

1. Describe Ariely's "matrix test" on cheating and discuss it's implications, in your view.

2. How did Jonathan Haidt challenge the consensus in moral psychology established by Piaget and Kohlberg?

3. What is the point of Haidt's "harmless taboo violations" research?

4. What is ethics for, according to Haidt? Why does he think this (bring later content to bear on this question as well)?

January 14

1. What factors affect one's decision to break with situational control?

2. What Piaget's and Kohlberg's stages of cognitive and moral development? Identify some criticisms of each.

3. How can Kohlberg's stages of moral development help us understand cases like the My Lai massacre?

January 15

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's analysis of relativism and subjectivism.

2. What does it mean to say that ethical reasoning must involve universalizability?

3. How do utilitarians think about "interests"?

January 17

1. How does Aristotle argue that happiness is goal of human existence?

2. How are does our "function" or nature help inform our understanding of the good life and of the kinds of lives (identify them) that can't be the good life?

3. Why is virtue or excellence by itself not sufficient to realize our happiness?

January 21

1. Describe and evaluate historical (western) thought on the relationship between reason and emotion in Plato, Hume and Jefferson?

2. How does research in evolutionary pschology (Haidt's and others) change the "moralism" of earlier 19th and 20th century "nativism"?

3. Explain the "rider and elephant" metaphor in Haidt's work.

4. What is Haidt's "social intuitionist" model of cognition? How does it work? Evaluate and/or raise questions about it.

January 22

1. What evidence do we have that "intuitions come first"?

2. What are some critical limits and practical consequences of the claim that "intuitions come first"?

January 24

1. Why does virtue require formation through habit?

2. How are we suppose to find virtue as the "golden mean"?

3. Is there really a virtuous amount of anger?

January 28

1. How does Aristotle distinguish the voluntary from the involuntary?

2. What is choice and deliberation for Aristotle?

3. Reconstruct Aristotle's specific analyses of courage and temperance.

January 29

1. How does research on accountability, self-esteem, and confirmation bias support the claim that we engage in strategic reasoning to support our views and biases?

2. Why does Haidt think that good reasoning requires social relationships? Is he right?

January 31

1. How does Hobbes argue for the need for a social contract?

2. How does a modern social contract theorist appeal to reason to justify the social contract?

3. What is the Prisoner's Dilemma and what does it show?

February 04

1. Explain and evaluate "Veneer Theory" (drawing on later readings as well).

2. Why were major theorists such as Huxley, Freud and Wright "dualists" about morality and evolution?

3. What is a moral emotion?

February 05

1. How does de Waal organize his defintion of empathy and evidence for empathy on a continuum from simple to complex (and cognitive)?

2. Why link higher forms of empathy (including consolation behavior) to self-awareness?

3. What is cognitive empathy?

February 07

1. What evidence does de Waal offer for reciprocity and fairness (and limits to the same) in chimpanzees and monkeys?

2. What is the connection, for de Waal, between morality and aggression to outgroups?

February 11

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Christine Korsgaard's view of de Waal's essay, "Morally Evolved."

February 12

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's critical essay on de Waal's, "Morally Evolved."

February 14

1. What is WEIRD morality, accoding to Haidt?

2. What is Shweder's moral anthropology and how does Haidt think it helps explain harmless taboo violations?

February 18

1. How does Haidt think the Enlightenment went wrong in itself emphasis on reason or "systematizers" over nature?

2. How does the evolutionary psychology of moral values work according to Haidt? What are triggers? Identify and discuss some of the original and current triggers for some of the sources he discusses.

February 19

1. Why doesn't Haidt find "homo economicus" a persuasive model for values?

2. How do the five "moral foundations" of politics lead to diverse liberal and conservative political views?

February 21

February 25

February 26

1. Give a moral analysis of Truman's decision to drop the bomb, taking into account Anscombe's objections.

2. How does Kant distinguish categorical from hypothetical imperatives?

3. What is the Kantian analysis of what's wrong with lying and Anscombe's criticism?

4. In the Case of the Inquiring Murderer, how would Kant defend truth telling? Give two standard criticisms to Kant's view, along with your own analysis.

February 28

1. What are the justifications for punishment for utilitarians and Kantians?

2. How should we think about the goals of punishment?

March 04

1. How does Mill define utilitarianism as a moral theory?

2. What objections does Mill consider for the theory? How does he reply? What can you infer about the reception of the theory, historically, from the way he feels he has to defend it?

3. Why, according to Mill, should we care about following the principle of utility?

March 05

1. Compare and contrast utilitarian and traditional moral analyses of euthanasia, marijuana use, and animal rights.

March 07

1. Consider and assess criticisms of utilitarianism.

March 18

1. What is Rawls basic theory of justice?

2. How would a Rawlsian look at common problems of distributive justice?

March 19

1. How does just war theory articulate the considerations for starting a just war and for conducting war in a just manner? How are these considerations complicated by recent examples of war?

2. Does egalitarianism always involve distributing goods equally or leaving people more equal after a distribution? How does Singer argue that it doesn't (in both cases)?

March 21

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's criticisms of equality of opportunity as a social/political goal?

2. How is affirmative action in higher ed admissions justified? What is the current Supreme Court position on admissions policies designed to promote diversity?

March 25

1. What is the "hive switch," how is it activated and how is it related to fascism, according to Wilson?

2. What is Oxytocin and what effect does it have on people?

March 26

1. Reconstruct and evaluate Singer's argument that not aiding those in absolute poverty is the moral equivalent of killing them.

2. What is the obligation to alleviate absolute poverty according to Singer? What does it require of us in your opinion?

March 28

1. What does it mean to be an internationalist about global social and political problems? What are the political and moral tradeoffs for various nations in deciding to be internationalists?

April 02

1. Is religion like sports? Evaluate.

2. How do new atheists, such as Dawkins and Dennett, and anthropologists, such as Haidt, Atran and Henrich, look at religion differently?

April 04

1. How does religion help us with morality, according to Haidt? Why isn't it a straightforward benefit?

2. Evaluate the follow two possibilities in terms of which is more likely and more preferable: a) religion can unite all human beings in a common community (syncretism); b) cooperation across group must be based on some non-religious normative ethics such as utility, social contracts, or duty (secularism).

April 08

1. How can we disagree more constructively?

April 09

1. How does Umberto Eco respond to Carlo Maria Martini's challenging question: “What is the basis of the certainty and necessity for moral action of those who, in order to establish the absolute nature of an ethic, do not intend to appeal to metaphysical principles or transcendental values, or even to universally valid categorical imperatives?”

April 11